Amid the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced last week an expansionary budget to support the economy and improve people’s living standards.
While the headline-grabbing item was the HK$10,000 (about A$1960) cash payout to every Hong Kong permanent resident aged 18 or above, there are many smaller items in the budget speech that you may have missed.
Here are 10 interesting measures from the Hong Kong Budget that may have not made the headlines:
1. Supporting mental health
Marred by months of social unrest and exacerbated by the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, the government will allocate resources to the Food and Health Bureau, the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Education Bureau to provide additional support to people suffering from mental health issues.
2. Encouraging retired doctors to return to work
One of the major challenges to Hong Kong’s health system is a chronic shortage of doctors. To help address this issue, the government will provide extra funding to the Hospital Authority (HA) to enhance the Special Retired and Rehire Scheme to encourage experienced doctors to continue their service on contract terms with the HA after retirement.
3. Assisting elderly people with swallowing difficulties
Facing the challenges of an ageing population, the government will roll out a number of new measures, including allocating an additional HK$75 million to subsidised elderly service units to provide soft meals to elderly persons with swallowing difficulties.
4. Keeping up-to-date with global tax policies
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is actively exploring proposals of setting rules for imposing a global minimum tax rate. In a bid to ensure that this proposal will not undermine the attractiveness of Hong Kong’s low and simple tax system, the government will invite academics, other experts and members of the business community who are experienced in the fields of international taxation and economic development to tender advice to the government on the matter.
5. Promoting sports in the year of the Olympics
With 2020 being an Olympics year, and to further promote sports development in Hong Kong, the government will increase the total subsidy for the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China and 60 sports associations from about HK$300 million to more than HK$500 million a year over the next four years.
6. Enhancing Hong Kong’s landmark – Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour is one of Hong Kong’s famous landmarks and its promenades are popular gathering places for locals and tourists alike. The government has earmarked HK$6.5 billion for implementing several harbourfront development initiatives, including opening up another kilometre or so of new promenades.
7. Reducing fees and rent for cruise operators
With the cruise industry facing significant challenges caused by the coronavirus epidemic, the government will offer another six months of fee and rent reductions for cruise lines and existing tenants of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. This will involve a cost to the revenue of HK$18 million.
8. Helping recycling enterprises
In accordance with the aim of protecting the environment, the government will provide a new round of rental subsidies for six months to local recycling enterprises. This will involve an expenditure of about HK$100 million.
9. Establishing a Geospatial Lab for smart city development
As part of the drive to build a smart city, the government will earmark HK$60 million for the establishment of Hong Kong’s first Geospatial Lab to encourage the public to make use of spatial data in developing mobile applications.
10. Welcoming the era of 5G
With major telecommunications operators set to launch 5G services later this year, the government will implement a subsidy scheme for mobile network operators to expand optical fiber networks to remote villages. The government will also identify suitable government properties, bus stops and telephone booths to set up radio base stations for telecommunication operators to develop 5G networks.